Fulltime HEL: Episode 6 - Meetin.gs

Fulltime HEL: Episode 6 - Meetin.gs

It’s not uncommon when reporting about a product or service to have no experience of it before hand. The very fact that its new or under wraps puts a dampener on one’s ability to report or review it. After release it’s a different beast. There’s a lot of information out there, reviews abound and everyone and their cousin has an opinion to offer.

With this week’s interview I didn’t have that problem. Either through sheer incompetence on my part, or blind luck I hadn’t encountered any material to affect my opinion of Meetings and their app Swipe to Meet. That may have something to do with the fact that I use a Windows Phone, but only a little. It could also speak to my preparation as a journalist.

But there in my text messages, after having established contact was a request to see what times worked best for me and those I was meeting. Before the interview had even begun I had already been party to Meetings technology.

But before that…

Welcome to episode 6 of Fulltime HEL, the podcast about startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and co-working spaces in Helsinki, Finland. I’m your host Gregory Pellechi.

On this episode, Meetings both the thing and the company.

Everyone’s been to meetings. I don’t want to start a pissing contest, but I’ve been to some of the worst. Entire internships were devoted to simply attending meetings, not out of choice, but because what else would you deem an intern capable of doing than sitting someplace silently.

That was Teemu Arina, and he’s clearly been to a lot of meetings. He speaks the truth, but it’s not just companies that like to hold a lot of meetings, it’s international organizations, NGOs, and basically any group of people organized around some common theme. Even my rugby team organizes our practices and games with a web app — Niemenhuuto — where players can indicate if they’ll be attending an event and get details about said event.

As a journalist and podcaster I schedule a lot of meetings. Up until recently my schedule was extremely flexible so I would let interviewees dictate the date and time of our meetings. That’s changed now that I’ve started daily Finnish and Swedish lessons. To some degree the constraint on my availability is a relief as it’s cutting back the number of interviews I conduct each week. With the backlog I have for this podcast it’s not like I’m hurting for content.

But I’m still taking meetings, like the one for the interview that makes up this episode. And to do so required that the interviewee and I both check our schedules. Only in this case, it didn’t. It was done for us. Now I may sound surprised, but remember I’ve just spent a year and a half in Iraq where any scheduling had to be cleared first with security to see if there was personnel and vehicles available to take us.

Finland, at least according to my wife, and probably the rest of the world already has some experience with similar products — CalendlySchedule Once and Doodle being the big examples. Finland has produced its own solution — Meetings.

Antero’s copywriting and Teemu’s creation obviously have done something remarkable given their app has been already showcased on the App Store in the Nordic region when Swipe to Meet only launched in June. It’s the sort of traction others would apparently kill for. But of course you’re wondering, like I was, what makes Meetings’ product different from their competitors.

Doing something different. It’s a hard idea to process, given how readily meetings fall into the same ruts time and again. People are late. Meetings go over. Agenda item after agenda item is added. The only result is another meeting. Or if you’re me, you get sent to a meeting solely to report on said meeting and provide no input to it.

Oh how I wish for standing meetings or 15 minute ones. I don’t know how readily the humanitarian aid and development community would adopt such things. There’s a definite penchant to turn everything into a committee and as a result have more meetings. The difficulty with such short meetings as a journalist is you may not get all the information you need out of an interview. Setting up those meetings through a service like Meetings and Swipe to Meet may take out some of the hassle.

If you think about it, the text message Swipe to Meet sends is ideal in that it bypasses a person’s spam folder. Of course there’s no guarantee they’ll read the text, but it would seem to have a greater chance of being read than another email.

Knowing the purpose of the meeting is certainly useful. If there are specific goals or topics to be discussed then maybe the meeting will be both productive and short. But just agreeing to a time to meet is a hassle. Especially when there’s a culture of consensus and no one is taking the initiative to set a date. It makes me wonder if it’d almost be easier to have the app determine the meeting time without import from the user.

The control allotted to a user, regardless of whether their from a culture focused on consensus, is smart. Not just so people feel in control, but because they generally have an idea if they’ll be able to attend a meeting. If Swipe to Meet immediately assigned me an interview time after I have my Swedish and Finnish lessons and the meeting is across the city, I’d never make it. Presumably it wouldn’t be hard to program in a buffer between meetings, especially if a meeting is not at the home office.

Even with scheduling cut down to a matter of minutes, it makes me wonder if meetings can be too. Not that one would need any app to do so beyond a stopwatch or alarm. One of the biggest proponents for 15 minute meetings in Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo, who I founded out about by listening to the Tim Ferriss show. Something that Teemu and I have in common.

Noah’s enforcement that a meeting only be 15 minutes speaks to both his discipline and Teemu’s for meeting such a standard. I wonder though if it’s a readily transferrable skill, or would there be some cultural backlash against it. Is one’s ability to hold 15 minute meetings determined by their perceived social status. For example, if you are an employee you could certainly ask for just 15 minutes from your boss, and the boss could ask for 15 minutes from you. But if your boss asked for a meeting and you told them only if it’s 15 minutes long, how would that be perceived?

Regardless of that, the ability to avoid the scheduling dance that so many of us go through is a welcome reprieve. Once I finally move off my Windows Phone I’ll be utilizing a tool like Swipe to Meet more, because as it stands most of my interviews are scheduled via email which means an average of five are sent before we settle on a date.

And speaking of dates, just remember we always have a date — every Thursday a new episode of Fulltime HEL drops. Speaking of which…

On the next episode of Fulltime HEL, teaching technology with Mehackit.

Fulltime HEL was produced by me, Gregory Pellechi. Music for the show is courtesy of Chris Zabriskie.

Fulltime HEL: Episode 7 - Mehackit

Fulltime HEL: Episode 7 - Mehackit

Fulltime HEL: Episode 5 - The Importance of Design

Fulltime HEL: Episode 5 - The Importance of Design